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LGBT History Month

Oct. 8-9: LGBT History Month honors ‘out’-spoken journalist, and Puerto Rico activist

LGBT History Month Oct. 8-9
Written by Staff
Jonathan Capehart, Pulitzer-Winning Journalist
b. July 2, 1967

“One of the burdens of being a black male is carrying the heavy weight of other people’s suspicions.” 

Jonathan T. Capehart is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and a member of The Washington Post editorial board.

Capehart was born in Newark, New Jersey. He attended Saint Benedict’s Preparatory School and graduated with a degree in political science from Carleton College in 1989.

Before joining The Washington Post, Capehart was a researcher for NBC’s The Today Show. He went on to the New York Daily News, where he served on the editorial board from 1993 until 2000. There, Capehart was a pivotal contributor to a 16-month series that helped save the Apollo Theater in Harlem. The project earned the NYDN editorial board the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Best Editorial Writing.

Capehart left the NYDN for Bloomberg News and served as policy adviser to Michael Bloomberg’s successful campaign for New York City mayor. Capehart returned to the NYDN in 2002 as editorial page deputy editor. He left in 2004 to join the global public relations firm of Hill & Knowlton as senior vice president and counselor of public affairs.

In 2007, Capehart became the youngest member ever to join the editorial board of The Washington Post. His opinions focus on the intersection of social and cultural issues and politics. He hosts his own podcast, “Cape Up,” and is a contributor to MSNBC, regularly serving as a substitute anchor on programs such as “The Cycle” and “Way Too Early.” He has appeared on ABC News’ “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” Reporters Roundtable, and in 2018 he became a guest host of New York Public Radio’s “Midday on WNYC.”

Capehart often speaks publicly about issues of equality and social justice. He has moderated panel discussions on these topics for the Center for American Progress, the Aspen Institute, the Aspen Ideas Festival, and The Atlantic’s Washington Ideas forum. Among other recognition, Capehart was named a 2011 Esteem honoree — a distinction bestowed on individuals who have made a positive impact on both the African-American and LGBT communities.

In 2017 Capehart married his longtime partner, Nick Schmit, the assistant chief of protocol at the U.S. State Department. The New York Times covered the ceremony, at which former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder officiated. The couple lives in Washington, D.C.

Francisco Cartagena, Puerto Rican Activist
b. Jan. 18, 1986

“Being different should not be a reason to hate or discriminate against a person. There are more reasons to respect sexual diversity than stars in the universe.”

Francisco J. “El Jimagua” Cartagena Méndez is a Puerto Rican writer and well-known human-rights activist.

Cartagena was born an identical twin in Bayamón, Puerto Rico. His mother died from complications of diabetes when he was 11. He adopted the pseudonym El Jimagua at age 14 when he began to share his poetry on social media. The name derives from the word “twins” (jimagua) in Anahuac, the language of the island’s indigenous Taíno people.

At age 18,  Cartagena came out to his father, who accepted the news unconditionally. Cartagena began his human rights activism soon after that.

Cartagena was one of the principal promoters of “Boicot La Comay,” the boycott of a Puerto Rican television program that promoted homophobia and violence against gays. It resulted in the show’s cancellation. On the news outlet Univisión Puerto Rico, he denounced a religious group who had taken photos at a Gay Pride celebration in San Juan and posted them to a homophobic website with derogatory comments.

Cartagena became a published author at the age of 22, when his book of gay-oriented poetry, Vuelo en Liberta (Flight in Freedom), was released. At the time, gay literature was rarely seen in Puerto Rico. The same year, the island’s lead newspaper, El Nuevo Día, hired him as its Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Transsexual) columnist.

Cartagena writes for newspapers and blogs in Puerto Rico, the United States, Latin America and Europe. His numerous columns address topics such as sexual diversity, LGBTT suicide prevention and the effect of religious fundamentalism on LGBTT health.

In 2013 Cartagena and his partner, José Santiago, co-founded the nonprofit organization Fundación ASI (Inclusive Social Action Foundation) to advocate for socially disadvantaged communities, including LGBTT people, the elderly, children, and single mothers and fathers. The same year, he produced and directed El Fénix Erótico (The Erotic Phoenix) in which he debuted as an actor. The sold-out show featured comedy, parodies, and recitation of his poetry.

Cartagena won an international poetry contest in Argentina for his poem “A Free Land to Love” in 2014. In 2016, he organized Talk About Prevention, an awareness campaign aimed at averting pedophilia. He was also named the ambassador of an international project of ONG LGBT Spain, #PorUnFututoSinViolencia, designed to address bullying, homophobia, and gender violence.

In September 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico causing massive power failures and economic disaster. Although Cartagena faced hardship, he traveled to three heavily hit towns to provide humanitarian aid. At the end of October, Cartagena’s apartment remained without power. An intruder broke in, robbed him and stabbed him brutally three times.

Having survived the near-fatal attack, Cartagena continues his activism. His latest book, Fundamentos de la Equidad y el Discrimen (Fundamentals of Equity and Discrimination), was published in the fall of 2018.

Photo courtesy of Michael Young Photography

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